LOS ANGELES - This is exactly the moment the Cubs signed Jon Lester for.
Though he's had four postseason starts already in a Cubs uniform, Lester's biggest outing will come Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, when his team will look to deliver a knockdown blow to the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.
Lester will either represent the Cubs' best chance at advancing to the first World Series in a generation.
"It's comforting to know that he's ready to pitch [Thursday]," Joe Maddon said before Wednesday's Game 4 victory. "He's been very consistent all season long. Been there, done that, too. He's done that in Boston. He's doing it again here.
"... He's got this real calm demeanor and approach about him. [Game 1] at home, he wasn't his sharpest, but still gave us a strong opportunity to win that game, and we eventually did.
"So, I like his mound demeanor right now. ... When he goes out there, you know he's going to be there. He's going to be in the present tense. He's not going to be overwhelmed with the moment, and you like those kind of attributes from the pitcher on that particular day."
In Game 1 of the NLCS, Lester didn't pick up the win, but he still sparked the Cubs to go up 1-0 in the series by allowing just one run in six innings.
Lester only threw 77 pitches in that outing, but Maddon opted to take him out for a chance to score a run in the sixth inning. It didn't work out and Lester admitted he was fuming at being pulled so early, but later calmed down and understood the decision.
"I don't get paid to make decisions," Lester said. "I pitch as long as he tells me to pitch. And as competitors in that particular moment, you're not happy with the decision.
"That doesn't mean that I'm going to go in there and yell at him or I don't trust him or I don't like him or anything like that. That's just being a competitor. If you wanted to get taken out of the game, then you probably aren't on this stage right now."
In what may be his last press conference of the year, Lester spent a lot of time looking back on his decision to sign with the Cubs.
Lester made a huge leap of faith to sign with a team that finished the 2014 season with 89 losses, but he trusted in Theo Epstein's front office and their assessment of the young guys like Kris Bryant and Addison Russell coming up through the system.
"I mean, it's tough. You're betting on words, really," Lester said. "We've all seen guys that are uber prospects that have gotten called up and don't turn into anything. So you just have to believe.
"I like the fact that I knew Theo from Boston and dealt with him a lot on that. I think that relationship just helped lead to me kind of knowing he wasn't BS'ing me. And you can tell when people are talking about people how they actually feel about them. And these guys really, really believed in these young guys, like I said, not only as players but as people."
Two years later, both sides are happy with that $155 million deal.
The Cubs have won 200 games over the last two regular seasons and are now in the NLCS for the second straight October.
Lester has been brilliant in his two playoff starts this year - 0.62 ERA, 0.71 WHIP - and has been exactly what the Cubs wanted both on the mound and in the clubhouse. He presents a very difficult matchup for the lefty-heavy Dodgers lineup.
"Theo and Jed [Hoyer, Cubs GM] being able to pull that one off was huge for our advancement, there's no question," Maddon said.
Now, the Cubs need at least one more big game from their battle-tested ace with 112 postseason innings on his resume.
As the tension builds around a Cubs team that can't find its groove on offense, Lester admitted he has some nerves going into a critical Game 5.
"I'm always nervous," he said. "If it's a June start or if it's a World Series start, whatever, I always get butterflies. I've kind of always had the belief that if those butterflies leave, then it's time for me to go on home."
Lester also echoed his buddy John Lackey about how experience in the postseason can sometimes be overrated.
"Sometimes it's good to be naive and stupid and have no idea what that moment is like," Lester said. "And just go out there and, I've said it before - pitch dumb, play dumb. Have no idea what this moment means. Just go out and play. And I think sometimes that helps.
"Sometimes we can be - talking about numbers - we can be overloaded with information to where we're thinking about the wrong things instead of just enjoying the moment and playing."